Think back. You are 13 years old in Middle School. It’s Gym class and teams are being chosen. The best athletes are chosen as team captains. One be one they begin to choose who they want on their team.
You aren’t particularly fast or tall and your hand- eye coordination isn’t all that good. You watch as your classmates are chosen and you hope (and pray) that you won’t be last.
Remember what that felt like? If you were fortunate enough to be the one selecting or the one usually chosen first, you too remember the lesson: Don’t show weakness. Don’t fall behind. Don’t be chosen last.
Of course such feelings don’t end with a 7th grade gym class. The longing to fit in, to not lose face, to be accepted by others persists.
This past weekend I watched as a group of middle and senior high youth built and painted a bench. This bench is special. They call it a ‘buddy bench’.
The buddy bench is being placed at several church camps. The bench is for anyone who feels alone, struggling, sad, alienated. It is intended to be a safe place. Where you can sit and draw strength from the words of love and encouragement that have been painted by your peers.
More than words, the buddy bench is an invitation for people to come and sit with you. A place to sit and remind one another that in God’s eyes no one is chosen last. In God’s eyes each of us is beautiful, strong, gifted, unique.
Why? Because each of us is a child of God.
Ever felt like you didn’t fit in? Ever have someone break your trust? Ever been cast aside? Ever been picked last…or, not at all?
This buddy bench is more than a place to sit and rest. It is a metaphor that calls us to reimagine our place in the world. To see oneself and others as worthy too.
In this unusually nasty political season where our so-called leaders revert to bullying, shaming and blaming their opponents…it’s good to remember that it doesn’t have to be this way.
Good to remember that we each deserve to be treated with respect and kindness. To know that there’s a place on the ‘buddy bench’ for you and me.
Note: For directions to see a Buddy Bench at Grotonwood or Oceanwood Camps in Massachusetts and Maine, go to: http://www.tabcom.org